Tag Archives: heritage
I had the week of September 13th all planned. It was my birthday week so happy hours, brunches, friends and my yearly haircut were all on the calendar. I had everything planned around M-Pig, she was due to farrow (give birth) the 16th.
But the best laid plans are often foiled, especially when animals are involved. M-Pig acted like she was ready to farrow in the 16th, she had milk, she was off her feed, she was HUGE! I was ready! But…nothing. I was ok with this because I figured she was going to wait and have them on my birthday, because that is the kind of pig she is, so kind and thoughtful. However, the 17th went by and nothing, then 18th (my birthday!), and most of the 19th. Birthday dinner was postponed, as were the happy hours and brunches.
Finally, mid-morning of the 19th, M-Pig’s demeanor changed drastically. She no longer wanted to eat the past the prime peaches Noble Orchards (thanks guys, the pigs loved them!) donated to the cause, she didn’t want to have belly rubs, she just wanted to sleep in her nest. I figured she’d start to farrow as soon as it got dark. She did.
I knew it was going to be a long night for everyone involved. This was M-Pig’s and my, first time farrowing. I’ve helped lots of cows do it, but this was my first pig and I was scared! I really like M-Pig and did my best to learn everything I could about this process so I could help her if she needed it. But M-Pig was a total champ about the whole thing. She had her first 7 piglets within a few hours, with no help at all. It was amazing watching these tiny, little, spotted piglets enter the world. The last two piglets took longer and were both born dead. I tried to revive them like we do with baby calves, but I had no luck.
I stayed with M-Pig and her piglets until all the afterbirth had been passed and they seemed to be settled in and happy. I kinda felt like I was in college again, pulling an all nighter because I didn’t finish a project in time (I’m too old for that now, it hurt!).
I made sure M-Pig was up, eating and drinking before I went to bed. That has actually been the most challenging part. She is so focused on being a Mama and not squishing her piglets, she stays frozen when her babies are around her. She is getting better about it though! This morning she was asking for breakfast and got up all on her own.
Stay tuned Beefjar readers, there will be many more pigtures to come! And a few ranch days for those of you that live in the area!
“Forking” is a trick I discovered from having Silly the teacup pig. I wanted to know if it worked on all pigs, not just pets. “Forking” is just light pokes with a fork, any fork! Pigs can’t even handle it. They stop whatever they are doing and often “flop” over. It’s a great skill to have when trying to vaccinate your pig, or trim it’s hooves, or put her harness on.
It’s been a long time since I’ve done an update about the hogs. People are asking me about them and how they are doing. I am biased but I think they are doing really well. You remember that this year I doubled my hog herd – from 5 red wattles, to 8 red wattle and 2 hampshire hogs. I got the two hamp hogs as an experiment. I want to compare how a commercial hog and a heritage hog taste when they’ve been fed the same diet. But that is for another blog….
Let’s start with their diet. I cook all their food. I fire up my fire ring in my front yard, gather my ingredients and proceed to make hog slop that I have a had time NOT eating. Let me explain – I learned a lot from last year’s pigs. I learned that, just like my beef, what I feed them does influence the meat’s flavor. Remember that scene in Napoleon Dynamite where Napoleon drinks the milk at the FFA judging day and says “this tastes like the cow got into an onion patch,” well that’s true with meat too.
I feel like this year I’ve really dialed in my pig rations. The pigs love their food and scream and oink at me when they know I am cooking for them. This year, in addition to the corn/barley, pumpkins and organic almonds, I added day old cookies from The Cookie Shoppe!! The cookies make the cooking slop smell like baking cookings and it is glorious, hence the problem I’ve been having with wanting to eat the pig’s slop (I haven’t, yet).
The pigs are eating so much now, I usually cook twice a week. I’ve slowly been increasing the amount of almond meal they are getting. You see nut finished pork is a thing of beauty. When I introduced the almonds into their slop, I could literally SEE them growing.
Having 10 pigs has been a learning experience for me, it’s also been a tremendous amount of work. There is no way that I would have been able to raise these pigs if I would have had a job in town. I spend hours everyday caring for these hogs. Granted, I could be more efficient, by not cooking slop, using an automatic feeder, and using a commercial breed that would grow faster. But, it’s not about that for me. After a lifetime of raising our own meat, I’m a spoiled rotten meat snob. I want to grow and eat a product that no one else can. Simply, I want the best. Honestly, if you were in my position you’d feel the same way.
The pigs are so big now, they are starting to get scary. I have to be careful when I feed them to keep my hands out of their way. They get into a frenzy when it’s mealtime and they could care less if they are biting a pumpkin piece of biting off one of my fingers. Out of all the animals of the ranch, the pigs scare me. They are omnivores, and I have heard enough horror stories about pigs eating people to know this is serious business (also friends, remember when your baby daughter start dating, remind the date that your daughter’s Aunt Meg has pigs and to mind their manners).
I have been deeply pleased with the attention my pigs have been getting. More people are becoming aware of the difference between heritage and commercial hogs and the demand is increasing. In fact, my “List” for pigs surpassed the amount of pigs I got before I even got the piglets home. That definitely offset the anxiety I had investing almost all of my cash into my pork futures. I am a firm believer that you get what you pay for when it comes to livestock, and paying extra for heritage, healthy, female-farmer raised piglets was worth the money for me.
The pigs have it good, a custom diet, a mountain of hay to play in, and lots of space to have pig races. I’m getting ready to make the appointment for the two hamp hogs, they are almost finished. The red wattle hogs still have at least a month before they are bacon. Until then, it is good to be one of my pigs!